Presented with a springy beat that ironically contrasts with the hesitant lyrics it frames, “Sing It” might be the most radio-ready song in the tracklist of Mary Broadcast’s new EP Panic, but it’s far from the most expressive. In terms of vulnerability, this concept record offers us what could be Broadcast’s most exposed look thus far, and not through her lyrics alone. Whether it be the sensitivity of a hook, the plunging rhythm of the drums in a piece like “Bastille,” or even the somber confessions of a piece like “Aver,” there is scarcely a moment in Panic where we find this artist unable – or unwilling – to share virtually everything and anything that’s in her heart, which isn’t the standard in pop anymore.
There are some underlying rock influences in the title track and aforementioned “Bastille” and “Sing It,” but they’re never within the context of the cosmetics alone. On the contrary, rather than filling in the edges with a lot of virtuosic guitar solos or raging distortion, there’s a fragility highlighted by the almost blues-like structure of the grooves here that alludes to the vibe of most classic rock epics. We always feel a little on edge with where the story is going, but this is deliberate – in more ways than one, this is Mary Broadcast’s homage to the progressive rock notions of yesteryear, sans the camp and indulgence that frequently accompany tributes to the genre and its most celebrated era of popularity.
Forget evading the heavy-handed emotionality of Panic in songs like “Zone 4” and the moving “Bazar” – through Broadcast’s intimate delivery at the microphone, it’s ensured that we’re always listening to her storytelling through the lens of a one-on-one conversation as opposed to the preachiness a lot of pop musicians tend to fall back on. She’s giving herself over to the audience on every occasion she’s afforded in this tracklist, and although you could make the argument that she only cuts as deep as she’s willing to withstand as an artist, the very fact that she isn’t biting off more than she can chew aesthetically is a testament to her self-control. From where I sit, this isn’t just a thoughtful EP, but one that proves she knows her limits in and outside of the studio.
Panic is a very powerful listen and undisputedly one of the best concept pieces I’ve listened to in the last two years, and for all that it lacks in traditional progressive attributes, it more than compensates us for in originality (which is becoming an all too scarce commodity in this style of music). Mary Broadcast has been running under the radar of a lot of American critics, but with her defiantly European influences and western stylization of the arrangements in this latest piece, I think there’s a considerable chance Panic will win her the affection of audiences she’s thus far failed to conquer. She’s operating at full power here, and definitely demanding some attention from the world as a result.